- Label Text
- In the 19th century, prior to the colonization of the Congo by the Belgians, the Lega peoples had no centralized political system. They were governed by Bwami, a graded association open to all men and women in a given village. Bwami was both a political and an educational system by which esteemed Lega values were taught: moderation, nonviolence, solidarity, respect, constraint and moral as well as physical beauty. It was also a framework for political relationships, a means of establishing cross-kinship and cross-village solidarities and a source of entertainment. Above all, Bwami was a channel for prestige and the sole motivation for the visual arts.
- This small wood anthropomorphic figure exhibits the typical heart-shaped face found in Lega figures and was probably used in the yananio or kindi grades of Bwami, though ivory is more typical of the highest level, kindi. However, wood figures are more rare than the ivory ones. Typically crudely carved, these figurines were part of communally held baskets that, through the various wood and natural objects within, symbolically embodied a host of powerful expressions of social and ritual solidarity within and between groups. Unlike masks, which acquire their various meanings through use, figures generally carried a more static and fixed individualized meaning.
- Lega sculptures are rare because the Bwami society was outlawed in 1948, owing to the Belgian colonial government's misunderstanding of its beliefs and aspirations.
- Small wood anthropomorphic figure with short, stocky legs and no arms. The figure has a heart-shaped face with angled, almond eyes and a chin and nose that taper to a triangular point.
- Eliot Elisofon, New York, -- to 1973
- Data Source
- National Museum of African Art
- Lega artist
- Early to mid-20th century
- Credit Line
- Bequest of Eliot Elisofon
- H x W x D: 11.6 × 4.4 × 3.5 cm (4 9/16 × 1 3/4 × 1 3/8 in.)